Overdose cases up, agencies make public plea

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People selling drugs are finding easier ways to make money and sometimes with deadly results.

Overdose cases continue to climb in Sarasota. Since July 1, Sarasota police have responded to 44 overdose cases, including eight deaths.

“We’re seeing people selling fentanyl and carfentanil as heroin and cocaine. The users have no clue it’s not heroin or cocaine. People are dying in our community. We have to bring awareness to this crisis,” said Lt. Randy Boyd, Criminal Investigation Division, Sarasota Police Department.

Fentanyl is the same drug linked to the death of famed musician Prince. The Institute on Drug Abuse (IDA) describes Fentanyl as a powerful synthetic drug “similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.”

The drug Carfentanil is used to tranquilize elephants and is up to 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. Carfentanil and Fentanyl are addictive with high risks for overdose. The drugs can slow down the heart or cause breathing to stop. According to the IDA, the risk increases when people do not realize they are taking Carfentanil or Fentanyl mixed with heroin.

The Sarasota Police Department, Sarasota County Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services teamed up to raise awareness Thursday. The agencies made a public plea for community members to work together and bring attention to what’s been described as a “deadly and destructive problem.”

Other partnering agencies include First Step, a nonprofit substance abuse treatment center offering detox, residential and outpatient programs.